The importance of building your entrepreneurial social safety net

safety netIncredibly enough, in a few weeks, our company PICnet will be 12 years old.  Considering that the idea for it started during a student government campaign at UCLA in May 1999, I’ve been working at the same job for almost 14 years.  To put that in perspective, on average, most folks in my generation are on their fourth job at this point in life.

I’ve experienced it all in growing a small business, as most boot-strappers have before me. From the soaring to the highest of highs, to the falling to the lowest of lows.  Through the process, I’ve learned more than I ever could have imagined about business, but more importantly, about the relationships you build with others that keep you moving forward.  I’m so incredibly thankful to have been blessed with such a great support network of people that truly care about me.

As I say quite often, the relationships we build are more important than the tools we build.

But even with friends, family, and loved ones there to support you, few, if any, really understand what is running through that entrepreneurial head of yours.  No matter how fantastic your business is doing, as an entrepreneur, you’re always working harder than you were the day before.  Running through our minds is often the quote from Andy Grove:  “only the paranoid survive.”

If you’re a fellow entrepreneur, or you’re getting ready to venture off into the startup of your own business, I have one small bit of advice for you.  Don’t go it alone.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking about your business partner decision.  I’m talking about starting right now, today, your very own entrepreneurial social safety net.

During nearly all of my 14 years leading PICnet, I’ve been blessed with a very tiny handful of incredible fellow entrepreneurs.  These individuals (and they know who they are), have been in my shoes.  They know what it’s like to make payroll.  They felt the brunt of the pain as small business owners during the financial crunch.  And they’ve always been there when I’ve reached one of those points when I’ve said, “absolutely no one else knows what I’m feeling right now”.

But of course, my fellow entrepreneurs know exactly what I feel.

While family and friends have always supported me and celebrated success with me, only my fellow entrepreneurs really understood my point of view. Getting a chance to talk with them, no matter how infrequently, is some of the best therapy money could never buy.

Building your entrepreneurial social safety net isn’t simple, but it also isn’t rocket science.  Here’s a few good ways to get started on the right track.

  1. Join a local small business group.  I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Greater Washington Board of Trade’s Small Business Academy in our early days, and was able to bond in a safe zone with fellow small business leaders.  Some of them, like Raj Aggarwal from Provoc are still some of my close business colleagues.
  2. Connect with same-industry leaders.  Our non-profit technology community has been a terrific place for me to work together and share experiences with fellow business leaders, and helped shape the growth of our company through the years.  A semi-regular lunch or dinner with someone from your industry, but in a non-competitive or partner relationship helps provide insight and peace of mind.
  3. Engage in industry thought-leader communities.  For me, the N-TEN community in the non-profit tech space has been key to helping me find fellow business owners who understand the complexities of our business and can help widen my view of opportunities and challenges.

As you’re building your business, take a moment to reach out and find those fellow entrepreneurs that you can be candid about your challenges, fears, and success stories.  The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll feel the sense of “someone else really gets where I’m coming from.”  Trust me, it’s worth the effort to get there.

What does your entrepreneurial social safety net look like?  I’m interested in hearing how you cope with the day-to-day that is leading your small business.  Let’s discuss in the comments.

Photo credit: zen from Flickr

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013 at 11:55 pm and is filed under entrepreneurship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “The importance of building your entrepreneurial social safety net”

  1. pbwebdev says:

    Sign up process to comment was quite lengthy.

    Can’t agree more with building a network around you. We were lucky enough to stumble across business networking and entrepreneur social space early in the day. Not only is the network a great sounding board for ideas and problem solving but also inspirational to keep you moving on when times are tough.

  2. Ryan Ozimek

    Thanks for sharing, and sorry to hear that the sign up process to comment was lengthy, that’s definitely not helping my networking vibe. I’ll check into this. Meanwhile, keep on building that entrepreneurial support net!

  3. Ryan Ozimek

    After your comment, we decided to finally take the plunge and update our login process using the Janrain system. Registering to comment is as easy as choosing your social network now. Thanks for the feedback!

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